Perfect Days review – Wim Wenders explores a quiet life in Tokyo

Perfect Days review – Wim Wenders explores a quiet life in Tokyo


The latest movie by Wim Wenders, written in collaboration with Takuma Takasaki, is a unique and poignant examination of a Zen-like character living in Tokyo. The film truly comes alive in its final scene, where the protagonist’s face reflects a mix of emotions, ranging from joy to sorrow. Cinematographer Franz Lustig captures some beautiful shots during the magical hour, using the classic “Academy” frame.

Koji Yakusho portrays Hirayama in the film “The Eel” directed by Shohei Imamura. Hirayama is a man in his middle years who works as a janitor, driving peacefully from one job to another in his van. He enjoys listening to classic rock and pop on old-fashioned cassette tapes, including artists like Patti Smith, the Kinks, and Lou Reed (in line with the film’s title). Upon arriving at each location, he changes into a jumpsuit and proceeds with his cleaning tasks in a no-nonsense manner, using his brushes and mop.

Using a handheld mirror, he inspects the area under the toilet and behind the urinals, although he never finds anything unpleasant. In fact, the toilets are always clean and not at all terrifying. During his lunch break, he enjoys reading and taking pictures of trees, and he accepts everything that comes to his attention with a smile. He especially likes the city’s “Skytree” tower. Hirayama has a young and unreliable assistant who serves to highlight his patient maturity and calm demeanor.

Who is Hirayama? His modest and austere apartment is filled with literature, cassette tapes, and boxes of his photographs. He is evidently a highly intelligent and cultured individual who may have once held a prominent social status. However, for reasons of his own, he has chosen to live a monastic lifestyle, perhaps as a means of coping with personal struggles. Clues to his past are revealed when he ventures into a particular bar and when his sophisticated niece, Arisa Nakano, comes to visit. His sister, the mother of Arisa, also sheds light on his current occupation as she expresses concern over their father’s dementia and is taken aback by Hirayama’s chosen profession.

Perfect Days has a kind of ambient urban charm and Yakusho anchors the film with his understated wisdom and presence: rightly, Wenders doesn’t reveal too much too early about his hero and doesn’t try to tie everything up too neatly. But I found something a little too subdued in this film, though the evocation of Tokyo itself is very uncliched, despite the emphasis on something that is the subject of so many touristy jokes: the loos. Not perfect, but engaging enough.